After an acrimonious debate in which anti-immigration politicians exercised all their power, adding noxious amendments to an already negative bill, Texas governor Greg Abbott signed SB4, the anti-sanctuary jurisdiction bill.
The Republican-controlled legislature was deaf to the protests, the hunger strikes, the stories shared by immigrants, the rationale provided, and the simple fact that Texas has no so-called “sanctuary policies” in place.
The bill creates criminal penalties for sheriffs, police, constables and other public officials who refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities, charging them with a Class A misdemeanor. It also punishes entities and jurisdictions – including community colleges and universities – with civil penalties from $1,000 to $25,000 for each infraction.
It also allows police officers to question a person’s immigration status during detainment – possibly including traffic stops – instead of only when the individual is under arrest, as is the situation with Arizona’s SB1070 law.
Previously, Governor Abbott had a showdown with the city of Austin and specifically Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez. She said she will honor ICE detainers only if a warrant for the individual has been issued by a judge or the immigrant in question has been charged with a serious felony.
Governor Abbott withheld 1.5 million law enforcement grants from state funding when Sheriff Hernandez did not reverse the policy.
Sheriff Hernandez, along with other sheriffs across the state, were standing their ground since ICE detainers and questioning a person’s immigration status is not conducive to good community policing practices. People will be fearful of the law enforcement agencies and will not report crimes if they feel they can be targeted with immigration questions.
Moreover, these practices amount to racially profiling communities of color, as we all know well in Arizona.
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) filed on Monday a lawsuit to challenge SB4 on behalf of a Texas border town called El Cenizo, which has had an ordinance since 1999 prohibiting city employees from asking about immigration status.
In an unprecedented move, Governor Abbott announced yesterday a pre-emptive lawsuit against MALDEF (Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund) to stop advocacy organizations from filing lawsuits against SB4 and its sanctuary cities ban.
Meanwhile, the Mexican government has expressed their disappointment in the passage of this bill, which will negatively impact international commerce with the U.S.
We feel you.
This sure brings back memories of the fights, rancor, distrust and costly lawsuits sowed by SB1070 in Arizona. SB1070 wounded community relations, negatively impacted the economy and tourism, and soiled the national and international reputation of the state.
It took years of protests, organizing, litigation and lots money to finally get rid of some of SB1070’s noxious effects.
But we can say with certainty: Texas, eventually you will get over the nightmare.